Sunday, August 23, 2020

Hot August Night, 48 years later


48 years ago, August 24, 1972, the Hot August Night album by Neil Diamond was recorded at LA's Greek Theater. One of ten sold-out concerts that Diamond performed that month. Then on December 9, 1972 it was released as a double album with over 93 minutes of music. The cover had this amazing but almost unrecognizable photo of Neil Diamond. 

The album opens up to this photo looking back at the audience.

When I was a kid this record was played in our house soo much for soo many years that it was worn out, the record grooves and the album itself. I was 11 years old when it came out and it was another lesson in good music from my parents. They played music like Sinatra, Big Band music and Jazz all the time in the our house. 

Many many weekend nights my mother would put this record on the stereo turntable, my brother and I and mom would listen and sing along. We got to know it very well, every song, every change, every beat. 

The record starts out with a prologue, you can hear the crowd noise. You hear a cello, then another. And then the string section and organ crescendo into a tune called Crunchy Granola Suite, that rocks the house with pounding drums and a loud electric guitar part. 

From YouTube the first 7 minutes of the record

So many great tunes on this record. Solitary Man,  Sweet Caroline, Shilo, I am I said. 22 songs in all. 

Re-listening to the record as I write this, I have the same level of excitement I felt as a kid. It's just a tremendous record. And the sound quality for a live album is spectacular.  

This is the back of the album.

The Greek Theater is half way up a canyon on the way to Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park. It's a special place to see and hear music performed. The idea for the Greek Theater originated with wealthy landownerGriffith J. Griffith who donated 3,000 acres of land to the city of Los Angeles in 1896 to create Griffith Park. A canyon site was chosen because of its good acoustics. The cornerstone was laid in 1928 and the building was dedicated in 1930. 

Neil says hello to the tree people on the album. The sold out show made people sneak behind the theater and into the trees. Neil says "Tree people out there, god bless you, I'm singing for you too"

Halfway though the record Neil introduces the band and jokes around for 7 minutes, very entertaining.

Diamond later released three live "sequel" albums, Hot August Night II (1987), Hot August Night/NYC (2009), and Hot August Night III (2018)

The Hot August Night album went multiple platinum in the US. In 2012, the 40th anniversary remastered deluxe edition was released. 

The Greek Theater

Neil is now 79 years old has retired from the road due to Parkinson's disease. He sure left his mark and what a huge legacy. Diamond made 34 studio albums, 9 live albums, 42 Compilations albums and 37 Top 40 hits. He has sold over 100 million records.

Hot August Night stands the test of time and still sounds amazing. 

- JP Myers

Thursday, August 13, 2020

A New Book About The Talking Heads By Founder Chris Frantz

The new book Remain in Love by Chris Frantz about his life and the band Talking Heads is wonderful. Chris recounts his time at the Rhode Island School of Design where he met Tina Weymouth (who would become his wife) and David Byrne in the early 70's. And how they all moved into a New York loft, got day jobs and rehearsed and wrote songs at night. They honed their sound at a music venue 3 blocks away called CBGB. Shortly there after getting a record contract that would make them famous.

I knew this band from the radio, but really didn't get to know them until a close friend got obsessed with them in the mid 80's. We would listen to all their records over and over and would be amazed at how original they were and how weird and unusual David Byrne was. I didn't know their story until I listened to this audiobook and hearing Chris Frantz read it was incredible. His recall of people he encountered in his life is remarkable. He remembers names of people at obscure meetings and what they were wearing. He may have used journal entries to remember all these details. He almost never has anything negative to say about people, commenting frequently that this person was very warm or that person was incredibly generous. 

There is no doubt that the Talking Heads are a unique band, it's no wonder that a group of art students came up with this. 

In the book Chris talks about David Byrne as being on the Autism spectrum. I never heard this before and it would explain a lot, not in a bad way.

Chris explains some song writing credits that David took and how he once at art school rearranged an art exhibit so his work would dominate the main room of the gallery. There are a few incidents like this in the book. He seems to be saying all through the book that the working relationship with David was usually good, then he would go and do something selfish, be demanding or angry. 

During the time when they got their first album released (Talking Heads '77) they went on a European tour with the The Ramones. Many chapters describe where they went, the hotels they stayed in. And a second tour with Dire Straits. This book is deep dish on details and Chris talks about a huge network of people he and his wife knew. 
Halfway though the book Chris talks about all the time they spent in the Bahamas with producer Brian Eno who was there for the recording of 3 albums at Compass Point Studios including my favorite and their magnum opus "Remain in Light". They spent a lot of time there. They produced Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers two Grammy winning albums there. He even wrote part of this book there.

They also had a huge love for Paris which they have traveled to over 26 times.

Chris sounds like a very genuine person and is very open in the book. And yes he does tell a story about being a heavy alcohol and cocaine user for many years. And getting an ultimatum from his wife to clean up his act, and he did. They have been married for 42 years.

It's special music and hearing the history told by the founder, Chris Frantz was amazing. 

This is rock history worth reading, or listening.

- JP Myers